Cristiano Ronaldo reached 800 career goals as his brace secured Manchester United a much-needed victory against Arsenal as interim manager Ralf Rangnick saw his new side triumph from the stands.
A lot has changed at Old Trafford since their last home game 26 days ago, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer losing his job after that loss to Manchester City was compounded by a shocking defeat at Watford.
United coach Michael Carrick has steadied the ship during an unbeaten three-match caretaker stint that ended with an entertaining 3-2 victory against Arsenal at a bouncing Old Trafford.
It was only their second win in nine Premier League games and a timely shot in the arm ahead of Rangnick’s first game in charge against Crystal Palace this Sunday.
The German has signed a deal until the end of the season and Thursday’s match will have given him food for thought, having seen the quality and ongoing concerns first hand from the directors’ box.
Finding a way to keep clean sheets will be key if this season is to be a success for United, although there was little that could be done to prevent Emile Smith Rowe’s bizarre opener.
David De Gea was rolling around in pain when the Arsenal youngster struck, with the VAR instructing referee Martin Atkinson to award the goal as it was the Spaniard’s team-mate Fred that hurt the goalkeeper.
Bruno Fernandes, making his 100th United appearance, levelled before half-time, with Ronaldo turning home Marcus Rashford’s cross to bring up 800 goals for club and country early in the second half.
But Arsenal took just two minutes to bring this helter-skelter clash back level as Martin Odegaard found the net with a low finish - good work undone 16 minutes later by his rash challenge on Fred inside the box.
Atkinson awarded the penalty after the VAR advised he watch the pitchside monitor, with Ronaldo keeping his cool in front of the Stretford End to lash home what proved to be the winner. Relive all the action below:
Fred provides perfect snapshot of Ralf Rangnick’s puzzle at Manchester United
It was powerfully poetic that as Manchester United’s past and present collided at Old Trafford, with a banner of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer colouring the Stretford End being stared at by Ralf Rangnick in the directors’ box, that we are more confused than ever as to what to expect of their future.
The new interim manager, freshly bestowed with a work permit and with only a watching brief against Arsenal with Michael Carrick in charge, tuned in as Fred assisted one of the all-time comedic and plain-weird goals in Premier League history by injuring his goalkeeper, before helping craft a very fine one and then winning the penalty that won the game.
The Brazilian is perhaps a perfect snapshot of United’s state: the good, the bad, the my god - what is happening?!
The Brazilian epitomised the good, the bad, and the breathtaking as United fought back to beat Arsenal
Cristiano Ronaldo penalty seals Manchester United victory in thriller against Arsenal
Not if, as even more attention is paid to what he does off the ball, he keeps winning matches with what he does on it.
Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal: Emile Smith Rowe’s controversial opener rocked the hosts but they fought back valiantly as Ralf Rangnick watched from the stands
Carrick on his time at Manchester United
In the club’s online statement Michael Carrick outlined a few thoughts behind his decision to leave saying:
Michael Carrick leaves Manchester United with immediate effect after caretaker manager spell
Michael Carrick has Manchester United with immediate effect having stepped down as first team coach following his spell as caretaker manager.
Carrick to leave Manchester United
Manchester United have announced that Michael Carrick will leave the club immediately following their 3-2 victory over Arsenal. The news was just announced on the club website with Football Director John Murtough saying:
“Michael leaves with the sincerest thanks and best wishes of everyone at Manchester United after 15 years of exceptional service to the club as a player and as a coach. While we are sad to see him go, we respect and understand Michael’s decision.
“He will always be known as one of the finest midfielders in the history of Manchester United, and, more recently, as an excellent coach who has worked tirelessly under two managers to help develop the strong squad which Ralf will now take charge of.
“We are grateful for the steady leadership Michael has shown through this period of managerial transition, and, while he is now stepping away from day-to-day involvement, he will always be welcome back as a legend of the club.”
Man Utd 3 - 2 Arsenal
Second half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo (x2) and Martin Odegaard made this one a close run affair but Ronaldo’s penalty was the difference between the teams.
Man Utd 3 - 2 Arsenal
Arsenal have lost a Premier League game at Old Trafford, Anfield and the Etihad Stadium in a single season for the third time, after 2013-14 and 2017-18.
Man Utd 3 - 2 Arsenal
That defeat means that Arsenal remain in fifth just one point behind West Ham whilst Man Utd jump up to seventh and are now three points of the top four.
There are now just three points separating West Ham (4th) and Wolves (8th) setting up a tantilising battle for the Champions League places.
Man Utd 3 - 2 Arsenal
What a cracking game that was! Emile Smith Rowe’s controversial opener gave Arsenal the lead but Bruno Fernandes drew United level before the break. 90 seconds separated goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Martin Odegaard to keep things level after half-time but it was a penalty from Ronaldo that ensured United took hom the three points.
Full-time: Man Utd 3 - 2 Arsenal
90+5 mins: Manchester United win! The full-time whistle goes and the Red Devils come from behind to take the points! Michael Carrick remains unbeaten as caretaker boss and Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 800th and 801st goals.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies